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United States, Dominican Republic Sign Agreement to Open Preclearance Facility at Punta Cana International Airport

Release Date: 
December 1, 2016

Punta Cana International Airport submitted a letter of interest to add Preclearance operations during the first Preclearance open season in 2014

WASHINGTON—The United States and the Dominican Republic signed an agreement today in Santo Domingo to implement U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Preclearance operations at Punta Cana International Airport. U.S. Ambassador James Brewster signed on behalf of the United States and Minister of Foreign Affairs Miguel Vargas Maldonado signed on behalf of the Dominican Republic. With Preclearance, travelers undergo CBP immigration, customs, and agriculture inspections before boarding a flight to the United States at a foreign airport rather than upon arrival in the U.S. More than 11,000 flights from Punta Cana International Airport carrying nearly 1.6 million travelers flew to the United States in fiscal year 2016.

U.S. Ambassador James Brewster and Minister of Foreign Affairs Miguel Vargas Maldonado sign a Preclearance agreement in Santo Domingo.“We need to continue to build Preclearance,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson.  “We should take every opportunity we have to expand our homeland security beyond our own borders.”

“Today marks a historic step in taking the already strong economic and security partnership between the United States and the Dominican Republic to the next level. This agreement will lead to the establishment of a Preclearance facility at Punta Cana International Airport, making it the first airport in the Dominican Republic to have such a facility,” said Ambassador Brewster. “We anticipate that the increased efficiencies this facility will create will lead to economic benefits for both countries. It will facilitate tourists coming to the Dominican Republic and using local services while at the same time making it easier for travelers to return to or visit the United States by having customs and agriculture inspection teams on the ground in Punta Cana.”

“CBP has made expanding Preclearance a priority as it benefits everyone involved—our countries, the airport, the airlines and most importantly the traveler. For travelers, Preclearance means reduced wait times, quicker connections to U.S. domestic flights and the ability to get your bags and go after landing,” said CBP Deputy Commissioner Kevin McAleenan. “We are excited to continue working with the Dominican Republic and Punta Cana International Airport to establish Preclearance operations as early as next year.”

The agreement must now be brought into force after the Governments have completed all necessary internal procedures. Preclearance operations may begin at Punta Cana International Airport as early as 2017.

Preclearance offers a strong economic opportunity for both the host country and the United States as it can increase capacity and growth opportunities for airports and air carriers, while improving the traveler experience. Preclearance also allows law enforcement to identify potential threats at the earliest opportunity.

Punta Cana International Airport submitted a letter of interest to add Preclearance operations during the first Preclearance open season in 2014. In May 2015, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson identified the airport as a prioritized Preclearance location.

Preclearance is the process by which CBP officers stationed abroad inspect and make admissibility decisions about passengers and their accompanying goods or baggage heading to the United States before they leave a foreign port.  The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) requires that passenger and accessible property screening at a foreign Preclearance airport conforms to U.S. aviation security screening standards in order for the U.S.-bound aircraft to disembark passengers at a domestic U.S. air terminal without needing to be rescreened.  CBP officers retain the authority to inspect passengers and their accompanying goods or baggage after arriving in the United States.  

Preclearance operations began in 1952 at Toronto Pearson International Airport. Today, CBP has more than 600 law enforcement officers and agriculture specialists stationed at 15 air Preclearance locations in 6 countries:  Aruba; Freeport and Nassau, the Bahamas; Bermuda; Calgary, Toronto, Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, and Winnipeg, Canada; Dublin and Shannon, Ireland; and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Last year, CBP cleared more than 18 million passengers through these Preclearance locations.

Last modified: 
February 9, 2017